Tá an fear ag scríobh.

Ah..Rosetta! Go raibh math agat! Thank you – for working. Now I am trying out the TOTALe online version and working through Level 1, Unit 1. If only I understood what the “in-between” words mean. It is easy to learn words like “fear” (which means “man”) and “scríobh” (which means “write”). But when it comes to sentences like “Tá an fear ag scriobh.”, I have to guess what it precisely means. I believe it means “A man (who) is writing.” or “A writing man.” What the words “Tá”, “an” or “ag” mean, or what they do to the words “fear” and “scríobh” is not clear to me at all. For now. On the other hand, scríobh is clearly related to “skriv” (norwegian/swedish). This gives me hope.


I am just back from Dublin, celebrating new years eve with Niamh, her family and friends. We attended the event in front of Trinity college, on the College Green with concerts by Damien Dempsey and Paul Brady. The facade of the college was dramatically flooded with animations.

So it is 2012. For me this means: Learning Irish! Today I contacted professor Jan Erik Rekdal in the Department of linguistics and scandinavian studies. The first irish-course since 2010 will be held this autumn! I’d say this is lucky! 56 hours of irish grammar, language history and language sociology. Although this means daytime lectures, which means work interruption, I will have to find a way to work around that and try to register: IRSK1100

The language trap

Language, in it self, is strongly connected to power and since languages also isolate knowledge and exclude non-speakers, language skills are essential in acquiring knowledge and to function in society. One has to speak a certain language in order be understood or to understand messages. For example, one has to learn Norwegian in order to communicate properly in Norway. For most non-norwegian speakers english is the alternate language. If english is not spoken, one has to use translation to tear down the language barrier.

Translations occur only if it is of importance that the information in question reaches a specific reciever. Most internal matters, within a state, a community or a family, will not get translated because they are “internal”. That means that a language barrier, however innocent and un-intended, excludes everyone on the “outside”, the non-speakers. It also isolates the speakers from feedback, helpful knowledge, control and critique. This internal information is “trapped” within the language, until translated.

As an exercise in tearing down language barriers, I will collect information in one language, and “re-speak” it in another language. I will define the original “internal” context and try to expose it to a broader audience. One example would be to translate information about something that is of great importance within its narrow context. If this information stays contained within the local language of the context, it will avoid attention from a wider audience. Translated and exposed outside the protected realm of the local language, it can produce both helpful and disturbing reactions. The other way around, information from the “outside” can be translated and presented into the local language context, to an audience that would not have access to it, or even know about it. This, of course, happens every day when it comes to important matters or mass-produced information from international news agencies. In this blog this activity will be personal exercise only.


I want to understand the languages of the people I am close to in my everyday life and have decided to learn Irish – the first language of my wife-to-be. Within a year from today, I would like to have learned Irish well enough to speak it with her and her family. I will use this blog to record the process.